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Pockets at the beach: Mom’s birthday art quilt

July 2, 2011

Happy Birthday to my Mom on July 3!

My mom is so wonderful. Words cannot express how awesome she is and how many amazing things she has done for my family and me, especially now that we have children and she can be Grammy Pammy. I wanted to make something instead of buying something to celebrate her birthday to express my gratitude.

I know she has a favorite photo of my dog, Pockets, at the beach. He was watching some birds that don’t show up very well in the photo.

Just pretend you can see the birds

I had a grand idea to turn the photograph into a small art quilt. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. It just seemed so complicated. I decided to just stop worrying about it and DO IT. The whole idea is to cut bits of fabric and iron them on to create the fabric “painting,” and then use thread painting, stitching, and wool to translate the photo into a small art quilt.

Mom's mini art quilt

My Process

I started by posterizing the photograph using GIMP, a free program similar to Photoshop, and then turning it into grayscale so I could get crisp shading. Then I printed out the image on regular copy paper.


Next, I chose my fabrics and ironed on fusible web product that bonds fabric to fabric. When heat is applied, it turns into a sort of glue that allows you to “glue” fabric into place. I selected and cut some muslin for the blank canvas. I then used my grayscale image as a pattern to individually cut out the shades of Pockets, matching a different fabric to the shading. It’s hard to get it exactly the same, so I just figured I could rectify any wonky spots with the thread painting aspect. I even used the back of a yellow fabric because the shade matched better than the regular side!

I then figured out that I should start with the overall background images first and then leave the details like Pockets for last.

Assembling the background. I ironed them in place once I was happy with what it looked like.

The next few pictures show different aspects of the details I added once I had the background in place.

I wanted the darker stitching to look like water trails and pools from the surf

I used different color threads to make the birds. At first, I wanted to do pelicans, but am glad I just stuck with a simple line shape. Cheesy as it is, I thought it would be nice to have the two birds represent her two grandchildren.

Pockets and his shadow. I used 2 different threads on Pockets--a boring neutral, and some flashy gold. I left the shadow alone. You can also see the wool I stitched and glued in place, hoping to create the illusion of surf.

I used low loft batting and hand-dyed muslin from another project for the backing. I am trying to make the back look as good as the front by trying to eliminate shoddy stitching–trying being the key word!

I do like the back

My biggest area of growth hands down is getting a straight binding. I used bias tape instead of making my own, and I think the lessons I learned speak for themselves without me having to point out everything. I did, however, slice it up really evenly with my rotary cutter. I guess we’ll say the binding adds some, um, character.

I didn’t add a hanging sleeve, mount it, or frame it, because I’ll let my mom decide how she wants to display it.

Overall, I am way excited about how it turned out. This is my second time fusing and stitching a picture into a small art quilt, and I am just smitten.

Some of the fabrics are the same ones I used in the Something Blue quilt for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding.
Total number of fabrics: 13 including the binding
Total number of threads used on the top: seven


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Judy permalink
    July 2, 2011 3:17 pm


  2. July 9, 2011 10:48 pm

    This is gorgeous, Lucy! And so thoughtful, too. 🙂 Hope your mom had a happy birthday!

  3. Kati permalink
    July 11, 2011 8:14 am

    You are amazing!! It is gorgeous.

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